The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) defeated World Cup host France, 2-1, on Friday in what was arguably the most hyped women’s soccer match since the 1999 World Cup final. Megan Rapinoe scored her second consecutive brace, a first for the Women’s World Cup, to lead the reigning champions to the win.
With the win the USWNT are now tied with Norway (1995-1999) for longest winning streak in Women’s World Cup history (10 games) and, more importantly, advance to their third semifinal round in as many World Cups, where they will take on 2015’s third-place team, England.
The match was touted by many as a World Cup final-quality match up, and few could predict the winner. The host nation was given the advantage by many, especially since they handed the USWNT their only loss in 42 matches back in January.
And the match lived up to the hype. Rapinoe struck early for the U.S. and put away a second before Wendie Renard answered for the French, but the host team were the better team for a large part of the match.
“This is what it’s all about. Obviously we would like to play a little nicer today, but we’re moving on into the semis, into the medal rounds...so we’ll enjoy this one for sure. It’s so special to beat the host nation,” Megan Rapinoe told Fox following the match.
“You have to give it to the French team. I think they outplayed us, for sure, with the ball today, but we were so good defensively, so strong,” Megan Rapinoe told Fox following hte match. “We hit them where it hurt, we took our chances. This team, just...unreal, unreal amount of heart.”
In the fourth minute of the match, French defender Griedge Mbock Bathy was whistled and shown yellow for taking Alex Morgan down just outside the near side of the box. The USWNT were awarded a free kick well within striking distance, and Rapinoe lined up to send in the set piece ball. With only two French players in the wall, Rapinoe sent in the free kick that was dummied by Julie Ertz before bouncing the rest of the way through traffic and past Bouhaddi to give the U.S. the early lead. The USWNT has now scored within the first 12 minutes of every match so far this World Cup.
Rapinoe’s early goal was the lone goal of the opening 45, as the momentum shifted into France’s favor. The hosts outpossessed the U.S., who made a number of bad turnovers to all but give France the opportunity to bring the game back level. However, France were unable to do much of anything dangerous with the chances created, as Alyssa Naeher and her back line were able to thwart any serious attempts. As a result, the matched entered the half with the U.S. still leading, 1-0.
The U.S. attempted to come out of the break on the front foot and catch France sleeping, forcing Bouhaddi to make two back-to-back saves by Bouhaddi in the 46th minute. The first came from Sam Mewis and was deflected by a diving Bouhaddi, who got back to her feet in time to make the kick save to deny Tobin Heath’s attempt. The ball went out for a U.S. corner kick, which was sent in by Heath before ping-ponging around before Alex Morgan took a hard left-footed shot that was blocked by former Portland Thorn Amandine Henry, who looked winded after stopping the ball with her stomach.
In France’s most dangerous opportunity of the match, forward Kadidiatou Diani went head-to-head with left back Crystal Dunn, whose slide tackle attempt at preventing the cross came up short, allowing Diani to dribble around the defender and get off the eventual cross, which caused Naeher to unsuccessfully attempt to collect. Eugenie Le Sommer ended up with the ball at her foot at the near post as Naeher climbed back to her feet, but Le Sommer sent what could have been the equalizer into the side netting instead.
Once the match hit the hour mark, fatigue began to noticeably set in for France. Although the hosts had an additional day of rest between their Round of 16 match and the quarterfinal, but they had to play an additional 30 minutes in that Round of 16 match win against Brazil. That, combined with the heat wave that has hit France this week, France began to look worse for the wear, especially compared to their U.S. counterparts.
That proved fateful in the 65th minute when Alex Morgan sent a pass for Tobin Heath through traffic, and Heath runs into space inside the box before sending the ball behind Sam Mewis, marked in front of goal, over for Rapinoe, who fired her shot past Bouhaddi for her and the USWNT’s second goal of the night.
In the 81st minute, France pulled one back off a set piece after being awarded a free kick not too far from where the U.S. got one in the first half. The service was sent in by Gaetane Thiney, and center back “Big Wendie” Renard made a run into the box, took to the air, and redirected it just enough with her head to prevent Naeher from being able to get a hand in front of it.
Nine minutes (plus an additional five of stoppage time) was more than enough time for France to have been able to create another goal-scoring opportunity, but the U.S. were able to outlast the hosts, killing the clock as much and as often as possible. At the final whistle, Rapinoe’s second goal was enough to give the U.S. the win and punch their ticket to the semifinals.
The USWNT will now face off against England on Tuesday, July 2 at 3 p.m. ET on Fox.